Coalition submits comments opposing FBI proposal to exempt controversial biometrics database from Privacy Act protections

Today, OpenTheGovernment.org submitted comments -- endorsed by civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, privacy and transparency organizations -- to the Department of Justice about proposed Privacy Act exemptions to the FBI’s biometrics database – the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. The comments oppose the FBI proposal to exempt the NGI system from virtually every key provision of the Privacy Act. The comments call for stro

President signs most significant reform to FOIA since its original passage

June 30, 2016 – Today, the President signed the FOIA Improvement Act, codifying into law comprehensive bipartisan reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time in nearly a decade. The signing of the bill comes days before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, signed into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA Improvement Act is the result of a herculean effort on the part of Congressional leaders, staff members, and open government advocates who have been working to push the FOIA reform legislation that is critical to ensuring government accountability.

Importantly, the reform bill codifies the presumption of openness -- requiring records be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or legal requirement to withhold them. This language mirrors the Obama Administration’s and the Department of Justice’s 2009 guidance on FOIA, which reversed the policy of the Bush administration that had encouraged agencies to limit discretionary disclosures of information. With these legislative changes, the law makes clear that FOIA, under any administration, must be approached with a presumption of openness. 

Coalition calls for hearing on FBI’s use of facial recognition and proposal to exempt biometrics database from Privacy Act protections

Today, OpenTheGovernment.org is joining a coalition of civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, privacy and transparency organizations, and companies calling on members of Congress to hold an oversight hearing to assess the privacy, civil liberties, and human right issues raised by the FBI’s massive biometric database– the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, to require the FBI’s compliance with the

RSVP for June 28 Open Government Town Hall - FOIA Beyond 50

July 4th, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) -- a key moment to celebrate the law, which has empowered the public with access to government information and provided a critical tool used to raise public awareness of countless acts of waste, fraud, abuse, and illegal actions. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, OpenTheGovernment.org is planning a Town Hall to discuss the future of FOIA beyond its 50th anniversary.

Congress sends FOIA reform bill to the President’s desk

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2016 – Today, the House passed the FOIA Improvement Act (S.337), bringing the comprehensive FOIA reform bill one step closer to becoming law. The FOIA Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March and, in a bicameral & bipartisan effort to ensure the FOIA legislation is signed into law during this Congress, House leadership decided to vote on the Senate version, and send the bill to the White House for the President’s signature.

Final FOIA Reform Bill on Brink of Passage

S. 337 (FOIA Improvement Act of 2016) will be voted on today in the House under Suspension of the Rules. When it passes, FOIA reform legislation will be ready to go to the President for his signature--as promised by his press secretary. OpenTheGovernment.org joined 27 open government groups in a letter expressing support for the legislation, addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The letter emphasized that S. 337 would codify the presumption of openness, curb the overuse of FOIA Exemption 5, and promote greater proactive disclosure.

Coalition calls for removal of harmful FOIA exemptions from the Senate NDAA

Today, more than 30 organizations committed to government openness and accountability are calling for the immediate removal of three exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the Senate National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017 (S. 2943). The FOIA exemptions would severely undermine the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision at odds with FOIA’s goal of transparency and a carve-out to the FOIA for the Pentagon.